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CDC and Florida Department of Health investigate a likely case of new variant Creutzfeldt Jakob disease in a U.K. citizen residing in the U.S.

Last updated March 17, 2020

Approved by: Subramanian Malaisamy MD, MRCP (UK), FCCP (USA)

Atlanta: The Florida Department of Health and the CDC are investigating a likely case of new variant Creutzfeldt Jakob disease (vCJD) in a 22-year-old citizen of the United Kingdom living in Florida. The clinical diagnosis was made at a hospital in the U.K and she has since returned to the U.S. Preliminary analysis of information provided by the U.K. indicates that the patient’s clinical condition and history are consistent with vCJD acquired in the U.K. However, the only way to confirm a diagnosis of vCJD is through study of brain tissue obtained by a brain biopsy or at autopsy.


CDC and Florida Department of Health investigate a likely case of new variant Creutzfeldt Jakob disease in a U.K. citizen residing in the U.S.

Atlanta: The Florida Department of Health and the CDC are investigating a likely case of new variant Creutzfeldt Jakob disease (vCJD) in a 22-year-old citizen of the United Kingdom living in Florida. The clinical diagnosis was made at a hospital in the U.K and she has since returned to the U.S. Preliminary analysis of information provided by the U.K. indicates that the patient’s clinical condition and history are consistent with vCJD acquired in the U.K. However, the only way to confirm a diagnosis of vCJD is through study of brain tissue obtained by a brain biopsy or at autopsy.

New variant CJD is a rare, degenerative, fatal brain disorder that emerged in the U.K. in the mid-1990s. Although experience with this new disease is limited, evidence to date indicates that there has never been a case transmitted from person to person. Rather, the disease is thought to result from consumption of cattle products contaminated with an agent that causes a disease called bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, commonly known as mad cow disease). To date, no case of this cattle disease has been identified in the United States by the USDA.

If confirmed, this would be the first case of vCJD reported in a U.S. resident. However, because the disease is thought to have a long incubation period, CDC believes the patient acquired the disease while living in the U.K.

While very tragic, it was not unexpected that a case of vCJD would be identified in the United States in a person who had lived in countries experiencing BSE. Of the 125 vCJD patients worldwide, almost all had multiple-year exposures in the United Kingdom between 1980 and 1996 during the occurrence of a large UK outbreak of BSE among cattle. The risk of being exposed to BSE as a traveler in Europe is extremely small.

CDC received information yesterday, April 17, that this patient's illness was a likely case of vCJD and dispatched a medical epidemiologist who is working with the Florida Department of Health to gather more information.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC protects people's health and safety by preventing and controlling diseases and injuries; enhances health decisions by providing credible information on critical health issues; and promotes healthy living through strong partnerships with local, national, and international organizations.

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Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: March 17, 2020
Last updated: March 17, 2020